Rec Center: Zero Dark Thirty

And just like that, Maya the CIA agent is the sexiest woman alive. Okay, maybe not, but if she’s anything in real life as the woman that Jessica Chastain depicted in Zero Dark Thirty, then she can definitely make a strong case for the top 25 SWA list. Top 20 if she looks similar to Ms. Chastain too.

Brought to you by Kathryn Bigelow (the director behind the Oscar winning film, The Hurt Locker), Zero Dark Thirty is based on first hand accounts of the full clip it took to search, track and ultimately cut down Osama Bin Laden.

Beginning with the somber sounds of 9/11, the movie kicks things off with the interrogation of a terrorist named Ammar (Reda Kateb) who’s connected to the 9/11 attacks. Being conducted by a charismatic yet unforgiving Dan (Jason Clarke), who can be as ruthless as he is endearing (his saying, “Lie to me and I hurt you” becomes the chorus from hell to Ammar) during the agonizing torment he’s subjected to (which actual C.I.A. officials slam).

Allowing a young and seemingly unsettled CIA “monster” named Maya to witness what it takes to make progress on the war on terror, Dan uses everything from the infamous waterboarding technique to stuffing the man into a wooden box the size of a Timberland shoebox.

And that’s only the beginning of the seemingly never-ending game of cat and mouse that it took to find Bin Laden. What we witness isn’t just the pursuit of the Al Queda leader, but the evolution of a woman whose project  became an obsession.

Like a Kardashian, Maya stopped at nothing and would’ve moved mountains if she had to, as long as it meant her obtaining one of the most infamous rich men on earth. The deeper she got into her mission the thicker her skin grew. If you’re soft and you get thrown into a hot oven you either shrink or become one tough cookie, and Maya became one that even Cookie Monster would want no parts of. Constantly bumping heads with superiors like Joseph Bradley (Kyle Chandler) and her C.I.A. boss, George (Mark Strong), Maya grew so bold as to say “I’m the mother*cker who found the place” referring to Bin Laden’s compound when C.I.A. Director Leon Panetta (James “Tony Soprano” Gandolfini) questioned her presence. He found out it sure as hell wasn’t Madonna, but that didn't stop her from expressing herself.

And ultimately expression was the key to Chastain’s performance as Maya. She grabbed you and made you feel her frustrations and success. Her loss was your loss. Her wins were your wins. If she cracked a nail your finger would feel the discomfort. In the end you didn’t just root for her, you rode with her, as did a team of agents and soldiers who backed her moves to the point of no return. Bribing sheiks for information, tracking cell phone signals and combing crowded streets for their man, Maya got the help she needed to find Bin Laden because her convictions were strong enough to inspire skeptics into becoming believers. Jessica Chastain manifested those convictions through her performance.

It all led to that fateful Sunday night when two stealth helicopters fresh out of Area 51 (seriously) crept into Pakistan and a SEALs team went in and laid it down one time for the red, white and blue. Mostly seen through night vision camera work, the climatic battle in Bin Laden’s compound was the intense-pulse-pounding-heart-stoppin’-nerve-wrecking experience that you’d expect it to be. Sure, we know Bin Laden catches a bad one in the end, but the mounting emotions and work that led to this moment made the experience that much more gratifying.  

What Zero Dark Thirty offers is much more than a recounting of how Bin Laden was tracked down and killed, it gives you an appreciation of a dedicated official named Maya who wasn’t afraid of using a little elbow grease to get the impossible done. The woman sacrificed her social life, love life and almost her actual life in order to see-through something that numerous people died for and others said couldn’t be done. Her determination, optimism and perseverance are qualities that she proved most of her superiors lack and maybe even fear. For that she should be praised. Maya isn’t a hero because she tracked down Bin Laden, she’s a hero because she didn’t give up and let him walk away and live the life that he robbed so many of. 

That’s word to everything, should Maya ever decide to run for President, her campaign video would be Zero Dark Thirty. And that’s all she’d need.

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